The rate of germ-line RNA transcription correlates with the rate of immunoglobulin heavy chain isotype switching. A promoter element for the transcription of RNA from the germ-line mouse immunoglobulin epsilon heavy chain constant region gene is induced by interleukin(IL)-4 and lipopolysaccharide, and is bound at its transcription initiation sites by an IL-4-inducible nuclear protein, NF-BRE. To examine the function of the binding site for this IL-4-inducible complex, substitution mutations were introduced in the promoter. These binding site mutations increased promoter activity and decreased binding of NF-BRE. To investigate the paradox of an IL-4-inducible protein binding to a repressor site in an IL-4-inducible promoter, we determined that the non-histone chromosomal protein HMG-I(Y) binds at the transcription initiation sites of the germ-line epsilon promoter. Assays with antisera against HMG-I(Y) revealed monomeric HMG-I(Y) in nuclear extracts. Cotransfection of an expression construct directing the synthesis of anti-sense HMG-I(Y) RNA also increased promoter activity, consistent with a repressor function of HMG-I(Y). Thus, the data are most consistent with a model in which HMG-I(Y) participates in repression of promoter activity. The effects of IL-4 may include derepression at this site.